Old School Plumber Goes High Tech
Brandy Waugh and her father (center) pose with the company's team of technicians and cargo vans.
For Brandy Waugh, technology has helped her small plumbing and drain cleaning company become more efficient and grow to a new level.
“Technology has helped us expand to levels we would have never been able to get to if human employees had to do everything,” says Waugh, who runs a Mr. Rooter franchise in Amarillo, Texas, with her father. “We can only function the way we do because of technology.”
In 1983, Waugh’s father started the business as a new construction plumber. When he bought a Mr. Rooter franchise in 2007, Brandy started running the business for him.
“We are a father-daughter-owned company but come from completely different trains of thought,” says Waugh, who was busy dispatching new job assignements on the telematics system while answering questions for the phone interview with Business Fleet. “My dad is old-school construction and I’m technology-based repair. When I go tell him that I want to spend more money on Garmins or other technology equipment, he usually asks, ‘Why?’”
Currently, the company runs GMC cargo vans ranging from model years 2005 to 2014. Each of the technicians average 100 to 300 miles per day, depending on the daily route.
Five years ago, the company installed NexTraq GPS Fleet Tracking System with Fleet Dispatch, which includes a two-way communication program that interfaces with the technicians’ in-cab Garmin navigation units.
“Using telematics has improved our customer service,” says Waugh. “By tracking a technician’s route, I can tell a customer exactly when the technician will arrive. And if a customer calls in a panic with an urgent request, I can find the closest technician and reroute him to immediately take care of the problem.”
The tracking feature has also alleviated customer disputes. “If someone calls and complains that they were overcharged, I can look up the exact time that the technician arrived at the customer’s house and when he left,” says Waugh.
Additionally, the NexTraq system streamlines job scheduling by allowing dispatchers to drag and drop assignments within the program and click send to deliver the job directly to the technicians’ Garmin units. The technician can then use the Garmin to respond “yes” or “no” or text a longer response — without fiddling with a cell phone.
By using iPads, technicians can instantly have all the necessary paperwork and tools at their fingertips. “If a tech wants to show a customer a photo of a water softener, he can instantly show pictures or videos to the customer. Or he can look to see if a part is available.”
The company also uses technology for transparency purposes. Each van contains a SeeSnake camera, a reel with a TV monitor and a light on its head. When a technician feeds the camera down a pipe line, a customer can see the entire width of the pipe on the monitor. "We want the customer to be able to see what’s wrong,” says Waugh.
As Mr. Rooter looks to the future, Waugh continues to search for new ways to increase the fleet’s productivity. To help reduce the amount of time spent in the warehouse looking for parts, she is in the process of implementing an inventory system using barcode labeling software.
With a digital method to ensure the vans are fully stocked with the necessary tools, less time will be wasted by technicians needing to run back and forth to the supply house.
The main goal is to improve worker productivity by keeping the technicians out of the supply house and on the jobs, according to Waugh.